Apple Picking With My Daughter During the Days of Awe


Yellow-as-sunlight Jerusalem
artichokes, hefty hydrangeas,
white-to-pink—there’s a tree
within a tree the light reaches
deeper into, the jeweled apples—
time for awe and the seasonal
decay, for penitents to sway like
these leaves in the broken wind,
for casting off of the withered
heart, for the swallows
to float toward the next
chronicler, the days equipped
for flight. Migrating birds,
what wisdom? I climb the ladder
for the last of the apples, higher
and higher with the thought
of cider, picking each within reach,
stepping out onto the thinnest branches
for the difficult ones, the obscure ones,
the ones concealing themselves
in their darkest clusters of leaves—
forgetting the height, how close my death—
their devotion, to blossom and
therefore fruit and fall and be part
of the larger earth. Not like Frost,
not overtired, I shake the limbs
into a green hail-swirl. Bella,
six and in the flush of her enthusiasms,
chases and gathers and tosses them
into the wheelbarrow, the summer into
autumn sun perched on the dusk-side
of the tree. Will this beauty outlast
our sorrow? It’s the day of atonement.
Will we be inscribed in the book?
Will we find a way to live? Will we
have a place to store our griefs?
This is not a synagogue and we are not
beating our breasts, our sins spread out
like this fruit we’ll simmer down for sauce,
in this harvest we desired.


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